Health, Safety and Travel Insurance Advice for Travel to Germany
Germany has long been a favorite destination for expatriates, students, young professionals and retirees alike, and it’s easy to see why; Oktoberfest, historic castles, ancient forests, world-class cuisine, and recreation make a living here a distinct experience. In addition to its 80 million residents, cultural centers like Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg draw in millions of tourists each year, rendering Germany the seventh most visited country in the world. As one of the most powerful economies in Europe, the German labor force is renowned for its strong work ethic and technological innovation, evidenced by the quality of auto manufacturers including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Audi, to name a few. Quality is of the utmost importance here, and the country has one of the most developed and extensive transportation networks on the continent.
Before you get swept up in all the magnificence Germany has to offer, below is an overview of the most important healthcare, insurance, and safety information that short-term and long-term visitors need to know to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Common Safety Tips for Visitors to Germany
Germany is a relatively safe country to travel in, and crime rates have continued to drop in recent years. As always, foreigners need to stay alert and be on the lookout for pickpockets and thieves, especially near popular tourist areas like train stations, museums, and hostels. Be sure to protect all of your personal belongings, and leave your valuables and physical passport at home or in the hotel. Carry a copy of your passport with you at all times and never the actual booklet.
Futbol (soccer) is incredibly popular, but fans can turn sour pretty quickly if their team loses a game, so be aware of and avoid possible riots and angry mobs, as foreigners can be easy targets for them.
Intense heat and dehydration are typical, especially during the summer season, so be sure to drink lots of non-alcoholic liquids and stay hydrated during your travels.
Know your embassy and bank contact information in case of emergencies, including addresses and phone numbers. There is a U.S. Embassy located in Berlin for any mishaps with your passport, travel, or your safety as a U.S. citizen. Keep notes on what to do if you lose your passport or if your wallet or purse is stolen to make the replacement process as simple as possible.
German Health Care System and Types of Insurance
There are three options for health insurance during your stay in Germany: public government-regulated public insurance, private insurance from a German or international company, or a mix of the two. Long-term travelers would benefit from global medical insurance the most, while short-term travelers would be covered under travel medical insurance plans.
You must have insurance and support documents to obtain a visa or a residence permit. Different types of visas may have different insurance requirements, so be sure to confirm the requirements for the specific type of visa you need. Longer-term visitors will likely need a Schengen Visa for entry into Germany and other European countries. Learn more about Schengen Visa Insurance Requirements.
Around 85% of the population is covered by the public insurance system and 10% by private companies. Public officers, self-employed persons, and individuals earning above 50,000 Euro qualify for private healthcare, although most choose to stay in the publicly financed system. Many insurance providers will take your age into account, which can increase premiums and reduce benefits at milestone ages of 60, 65, and 70 years old. Other policies may limit the amount of travel time you get to your home country; often the maximum is 30-60 days.
When you arrive for a long-term stay, you should take time to find a primary physician (Your International Health Insurance provider can help you find high-quality providers locally) and schedule a routine checkup. This will familiarize you with your doctor’s office and could make other medical appointments go smoothly in the future, especially for families with children. Depending on location, it may be difficult to find a doctor that speaks fluent English. Most embassies have a list of English speaking doctors that you can request, however availability of these physicians will vary. Knowing your doctor ahead of time can make it easier down the road, especially for sick leave, which requires a doctor’s note. German companies give employees unlimited sick days. It would be wise when making an appointment to ask the receptionist when is the best time to come in, however you should still be prepared to wait before seeing someone, especially if the public insurance plan. Additionally, it is German custom to greet other patients in the office and say goodbye to them before leaving.
Otherwise, students and more short-term visitors may be better off using a private insurance company that caters to international travelers. These policies will cover areas specific to the expatriate lifestyle and are often less expensive than German providers. Students especially should research their options, as discounted plans are common.
International Insurance for Travel to Germany
- Comprehensive trip protection for U.S. residents traveling abroad.
- Optional rental car collision coverage available.
- Optional Cancel for Any Reason coverage available (if eligible).
- Short-term travel medical coverage.
- Coverage for individuals and dependents.
- Freedom to seek treatment with hospital or doctor of your choice.
- Five plan options and additional optional coverages.
- Choice of the coverage area to reflect your geographical area of need.
- Freedom to choose your health care provider wherever you are in the world.
Germany’s network of pharmacies is broad, and they are marked by a big red “A” for Apotheken. Pharmacies are open from 9 am-6 pm Monday to Friday, and 9 am-12 pm on Saturdays. Prescription medication is sold by company name, rather than the active ingredients as in the US. Doctors in Germany tend to prescribe the most expensive brand, so ask the pharmacist if there is a cheaper generic medicine available. Also, instructions for dosage do not come on the package, so be sure to ask your doctor and take note of how much and how often you should be taking the medication.
Emergency Numbers in Germany
- Police – 110
- Ambulance – 112
- Fire Service – 112
Vaccines and Diet Consideration When Visiting Germany
Currently, Germany has no vaccine requirements. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all travelers be covered for standard vaccinations regardless of destination.
German food can be entirely different from your home country and may affect your digestion. The cuisine is fairly heavy, containing meat, potatoes, and heavy noodles. Be prepared for the changes your body could incur from this type of diet and take the necessary precautions. Additionally, visitors sometimes have problems with alcohol and tobacco intake, as these activities are common and cultural. Make a plan to moderate your drinking and smoking, so no issues arise during your stay.
Prepare for Travel to Germany
Nothing can ruin a vacation quite like unexpected medical occurrences, so the more prepared you are to handle anything that comes your way, the better you will be able to get through it and concentrate on the more important stuff, like Bavarian cream pie, luxury sports cars, and touring key world history sites!
International Insurance for Travel to Germany:
Short Term / Trip Insurance: Learn More | Free Quote / Apply
Patriot Travel Medical (5 Days to 12 Months): Learn More | Free Quote / Apply
Global Medical (Long Term / Expatriates Plans): Learn More | Free Quote / Apply
Visa Insurance Advice: